How pregnant women should sleep to reduce risk of stillbirth

Published: 14 June 2017


Researchers have found that women who sleep on their back during the last three months of pregnancy are at four times more risk of a late stillbirth.

A study conducted by Auckland University has found women who sleep on their backs in the final months of pregnancy are 3.7 times more likely to have a late stillbirth.

Whereas women who slept on their side during the last three months’ of pregnancy decreased the risk of a late still birth by 9 per cent.

Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Professor Lesley McCowan told that the physical effects caused by sleeping on your back while pregnant can include a reduction in the amount of blood pumped by the mother’s heart each minute and also a reduced amount of blood flow to the uterus.

Sleeping on your back in late pregnancy can also lower oxygen levels in the baby, putting it at risk.

“Our findings make sense as lying on your back in late pregnancy is associated with physical effects that can compromise the baby’s wellbeing,” Ms McCowan told

According to the Stillbirth foundation of Australia approximately 6 babies die from stillbirth in Australia every day and in 2015, 1718 babies were reported stillborn.

Ms McCowan says the good news is that women can easily change their sleeping patterns.

She told that since their initial findings were published in 2009, research has shown there has been a change in the going to sleep position in New Zealand women who are now more likely to go to sleep on their side.